The Scene of the Crime: the Mount Polley Mine Tailings Catastrophe





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Published on Dec 30, 2015

Title: The Scene of the Crime: The Mount Polley Mine Tailings Catastrophe.

The video, completed on December 28, 2015, was conceived, compiled, edited, produced and self-funded by Will Koop, the Coordinator of the BC Tap Water Alliance (www.bctwa.org).

The title of the video is borrowed from Will Koop’s December 1, 2014 report, The Scene of the Crime: A Preliminary Analysis and History of the Mount Polley Mine Tailings Storage Facility, available on the internet: http://www.bctwa.org/MtPolley-CrimeSc.... A second, final and comprehensive investigative report by the author may be published sometime in 2016.

This video combines (1080p) helicopter video footage taken on the morning of August 4th of the Mount Polley mine tailings disaster by the Cariboo Regional District, with (4K) video footage taken by Will Koop eleven months later on September 5, 2015, injected with some of the author’s 1080p footage taken at the mine site on September 16, 2014. The arranged, comparative before and after sequences begin with an examination of the massive Tailings Storage Facility, progressively inching their way eastward 8 kilometres to the mouth of Hazeltine Creek, engaging in the zones of severe stream channel erosion, obliteration, toxic waste deposition and contamination to land and lake environments.

Beginning about halfway through the video, are a series of photographs showing what parts of the Hazeltine Creek area once looked like (set at the very image locations), images borrowed from consultants reports published in 2007 for the Mount Polley Mining Corporation, and images copied from Google Earth.

The haunting and stimulating mood of this video is set to 7 pieces of electronic-genre music obtained under the Free Music Archive on the web. They are, in order, as follows:

1. Ultima, by Vladimir Hirsch. From the Album: Horae (Organ Concerto No. 2).
2. Marcel Duchamp, by Vladimir Hirsch. From the Album: Jaan Patterson and Friends, Vol. 1.
3. Dreamachine A New Way of Thinking, by Ars Sonor. From the Album: In Search of Light.
4. A Transitional Moment, by Ars Sonor. From the Album: In Search of Light.
5. World Without, by Ars Sonor. From the Album: In Search of Light.
6. Dark Placenta, by Vladimir Hirsch. From the Album: Epidemic Mind.
7. Vindicta (Lost Radio Reshape), by Astral & Shit. From the Album: Lo-Fi Fidelity.

The Mount Polley Mine, operating since 1997, produced gold, copper and silver. It stored about 70 million cubic metres of toxic mine waste, sludge and effluent in its Tailings Storage Facility (TSF) up until August 3, 2014, along with about 10 million cubic metres of troublesome accumulated supernatant (mine site and TSF tainted) water. According to documents published by Imperial Metals, the owner of the mine (under the company name, the Mount Polley Mining Corporation), the TSF structure was 235 hectares in area (a new report, see below, states that the area was/now is 304 hectares).

Where the breach occurred at the Perimeter Embankment, the height of that segment of the dam was 40 metres (131 feet), the equivalent of a 13 story hi-rise building. Since about 2013, plans were underfoot by the company, as stated in a BC Ministry of Environment permit, to build the dam another 30 metres higher.

According to a November 30, 2015 investigative report by the British Columbia Chief Inspector of Mines, Mount Polley Mine Tailings Storage Facility Breach, a “progressive breach” occurred beginning at 11:40 pm, August 3, 2014, leading to a major breach at 1:08 am in the early hours of August 4th, when the remaining majority of supernatant waters gushed and rushed out of the structure, followed by, and mixed in with, millions of cubic metres of toxic tailings and toxic tailings pore (interstitial) waters. (No investigative report has been released accounting for the actual volumes of water and tailings that were lost from the TSF: there are only estimations of totals from 21 million, 25 million, or more cubic meters.)

The Mount Polley Mine tailings catastrophe is among the largest, per volume, of such disasters in the world. These horrible mine tailings disasters are catalogued in WISE (World Information Service on Energy Uranium Project, 2014) website, Chronology of Major Tailings Dam Failures, http://www.wise-uranium.org/mdaf.html.

As with other such tailings storage facilities (dams, impoundments), is the promise by companies for their safe storage forever, what is often called "in perpetuity." Something is obviously and seriously wrong with this promise made to the public and its governments.


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